Wednesday, June 20, 2007

A pair of tricky twins to keep straight

As I was developing my writing workshop, I noticed a lack of confidence in so many managers sitting in the seats. They would get hung up because they wanted their writing to be perfect. One of the things they--and millions of other white-knuckle writers--got tripped up on was confusing pairs of words.

Writing coaches call these word pairs "Tricky Twins." No spell checker in the world can help out on this one.

So I gathered up the most common ones and tried to pass along a tip to remember which one to use when. (The nuns taught me these so well.) This month, I'll give the two that bring the biggest sighs of relief to my seminar attendees.

First, is Desert and Dessert. The first word is hot and dry, the second you eat after dinner. But how do you keep them straight?

Here's what the nuns taught me, and you can memorize this phrase, too.

There is sand in a desert. (One "s" in sand; one "s" in desert.)
We had strawberry shortcake for dessert. (Two "s"s in strawberry shortcake; two "s"s in dessert.)

I've never messed it up once I memorized that trick.

The second tricky twin I hear goofed up everywhere- in conversation, in writing, even on TV sitcoms. The two words are Eager and Anxious.

Eager means you are enthusiastic about something. Anxious means you have a sense of worry or uneasiness about it.

So when you tell your boss, "I am anxious to work on this project," you may be shedding light on an attitude problem you didn't know you had. Remember, anxious has its root in "anxiety." Telling your boss, "I am eager to work on this project" may get you the peach assignment.

My UCF students are grateful to me for this tip as they prepare their cover letters and hope to set appointments for interviews. "I am eager to meet with you and learn more about your opportunity" is a powerful - and more importantly an accurate - statement for them to make.

Watch for more tricky twins in future posts. Especially if you're eager to be less anxious about your writing.